It’s that approach that O’Donnell consistently brought to practice and matches at Maryland, according to Meharg, who’ll provide field hockey commentary during NBC’s Olympic broadcasts this summer.
“She developed the mentality to train like an Olympian. We did a tremendous amount of winning at Maryland when Katie was on our team because of her personal perseverance. And she pushed me to be a better coach of future Olympians.”
O’Donnell, in turn, credits virtually everyone in Maryland’s athletic department — coaches, teammates, academic advisers, media relations staff — with her success.
“College literally has placed me in this seat right now,” O’Donnell said. “I’m not the most organized person, and there are people behind the scenes that teach you the things you need to get through college — the organization, the early preparation. And on the field, my coaches have spent so many hours that are unnecessary on their part, helping me grow as an athlete and as a great field hockey player. That has been remarkable to me — the fact that people are willing to spend hours after practice when they should be making dinner.”
That’s why O’Donnell makes a point to thank those who helped her in College Park whenever she gets the chance.
And at the Olympics, she predicts she’ll become indebted to another person: Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, an accomplished field hockey player whose passion for the sport has already raised its profile.
An official Olympic ambassador, the fashionable Duchess triggered a media frenzy when she visited Britain’s women’s field hockey team during a practice in March. She doffed her black pumps for sneakers, traded her smart blazer for a sweatshirt and, in coral skinny jeans, picked up a stick, lamented her loss of form since her days as captain of her high school team, and smacked a ball into the net.
“She is just an idol to a lot of people; therefore, people are going to take interest in what she likes,” O’Donnell said. “So if she likes field hockey, it’s going to be televised. It’s going to be a big deal because she likes it.
“I’ll thank her when I see her. With my gold medal!”